Longform

Neander-Guy

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Granted, fat and calorie consumption seem anathema to good health, but many scientists support the remarkable results Audette claims he saw with his own body.

"Ninety-nine percent of our time on earth humans have eaten an entirely different diet. We did not learn to grow grains or domesticate animals until 10,000 years ago--not long enough to change our genetic program," says Artemis P. Simopoulos, M.D., former chairwoman of the nutritional coordinating committee of the National Institutes of Health and now president of the Center for Genetics Nutrition and Health in Washington.

Simopoulos and a growing number of nutrition researchers support Audette's claims, at least in theory, that many of the illnesses that plague modern-day man are in part caused by the foods we eat. (None, however, would touch Audette's claim of reversing hair loss with the diet.)

"Our ancestors had many health problems," says Eaton. "But they didn't have the 'diseases of civilization' that afflict modern man." Paleontologists know Stone Age man was much healthier, had thicker, stronger bones and was two to six inches taller than Bronze Age man, who appeared around 2000 B.C. and ate a grain-based diet, says Eaton.

We get fat, says Little Rock's Eades, because of the way our body is genetically programmed to react to eating anything other than what it was originally designed to eat. Eades says the body reacts to high carbohydrate foods such as pasta and potatoes by over-producing glucose, which in turn causes an overproduction of insulin, a hormone responsible for many metabolic functions including fat storage.

But you don't have to be a complete Neanderthal to reap benefits from a hunter-gather-inspired diet, says Eades, whose patients lose weight and achieve other benefits just by restricting milk, cheese, and grains. "People wouldn't stay on the diet if I cut everything out," he says.

Eades stresses that the enemy in the weight-loss battle isn't small amounts of dairy and grains, but the low-fat diets themselves, which push people into filling up on carbohydrates. Although fat intake in this country has declined by 10 percent, Eades says, obesity has shot up 33 percent. "The low-fat diet has been a failure," he comments. The more dieters fill up on pasta, rice and baked potatoes, the higher their blood insulin levels go. The higher your blood insulin levels, he says, the more likely your body will turn food, even low-fat food, into fat.

Other immune system diseases can also be abated, some doctors now believe, with a meat-intensive diet low in carbohydrates and rich in leafy vegetables and fresh fruit.

In June, Dr. Artemis Simopoulos co-chaired a panel on insulin resistance and chronic disease at the National Institutes of Health. Among the issues discussed: obesity, hypertension, insulin-dependent diabetes and how diet plays a role in creating the insulin resistance that may cause the disorders. "We now think that in many cases insulin resistance precedes obesity," she told the Observer. "We also think it may precede other immune system diseases as well."

"The whole idea that insulin causes obesity and other disorders has been kicked around for a while," says Eades, but while most doctors and researchers focused their attention on low-fat diets, Eades began researching the connection between insulin and obesity eight years ago.

"We've been treating people from an insulin perspective longer than anybody," he says. It took 1015 years for the studies to show low-fat diets weren't working, he says. "They are obviously not working--researchers need to change their hypothesis. Some people look at [a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet] like a fad because they can't bring themselves to believe the low-fat way is not the way," he says.

Eades says he tests every patient who comes to his clinic for insulin levels. After eight years of testing, he estimates that 5070 percent of patients tested are insulin resistant. At least 25 percent of the general population is thought to be insulin resistant, he says.

Doctors used to think the root cause of many medical problems, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, was obesity. Now, many researchers believe it may be the other way around: in many cases "insulin resistance," the overproduction of insulin after eating sugar and starches, causes obesity and other diseases, he says.

"For years doctors have been chipping off the tip," he says, treating diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol with medications, instead of treating the insulin problem at the base.

Two million years ago, the body overproduced insulin during plentiful times in order to stimulate the liver to convert glucose into fat that could be stored for lean times, says Eades. Trouble is, modern humans have more than enough to eat.

"The same thing that caused our ancestors to survive is killing us now," says Eades.

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Rebecca Sherman